Grandfather says Alaska is a magic place — even though life at its far Northern latitude is brutal, sometimes.
Magic is central to the native peoples. The Tlingits recognize the spirits of ravens and eagles and belong to the matriarchal clan of one or the other.
For the interloper born elsewhere, there is magic in the breathtaking beauty of the Alaskan mountains and waters, and its wildlife everywhere.
For Grandfather the Interloper, there was the beauty of Chilkat Lake and the mountains surrounding it and the Sockeye salmon he took from its waters.
Forty pounds of salmon fillets, marinated in saltwater and maple syrup and smoked over an apple wood fire, went with him back home to the lower 48.
About the Author: RD Blakeslee is an octogenarian from West Virginia who built his net worth by only investing in that which can be enjoyed during acquisition and throughout life, as opposed to papers in a drawer, like stocks and bonds. You can read more about him here.
Photos: Courtesy of the Blakeslee Family
RD Blakeslee says
It’s a long trek between Southeast West Virginia and Southeast Alaska, where Grandfather spent most of his time in Alaska. He went several ways, over the years.
First, with a 1986 Ford Bronco towing a vintage Airstream trailer.
The Bronco would be doing an average of 70 MPH while the Airstream averaged 69.99 – it was shedding little parts of its underbody sheathing along the way. Alaska roads weren’t smooth, built on permafrost. The trip took nine days, driving 700 miles a day.
Later, pure luxury – a new slide-in camper on a new Ram Cummins diesel pickup truck.
That rig took the roads much better, but it was frustrated, sometimes – getting behind a line of big RVs doing 2 MPH so as not to shake themselves apart.
Later still – flying.
Airline schedules to Alaska were so tight there was not enough time to sleep normally. The connection from Alaska Air to the Alaska State ferry from Juneau to Haines left four hours open in the wee hours of the morning, so Grandfather slept behind the stuffed bear in the Juneau airport terminal.
Time zone crossings worked better for sleep on the return trip.
Carolyn Blakeslee says
I went on an Alaska cruise many years ago. The place is AMAZING and I had a strong sense of spirituality there. We went in May, before the midnight sun, but we did experience midnight twilight. Once at about midnight, I went to the ship’s uppermost deck and just contemplated for a while — I SWEAR I heard the earth’s hum, no other way to describe it. (No, it wasn’t a ship sound.)
RD Blakeslee says
Hi Carolyn –
My experience afloat in Alaska waters was limited to state ferries, which are part of the Alaska State Highway System.
The Lynn Canal ferry from Junea to Haines and back was quite an experience and quite a bargain – less than $20 as I remember, for four hours in very comfortable lounges and deckside chairs, observing wildlife and the mountains – trillions and trillions of tons of rock along the waterway, in endless variety of size and shape.